A new vaccination programme, planned to begin in September 2013, will see children under 4 months vaccinated against the highly infectious rotavirus.
Causing around 140,000 diarrhoea cases a year in the under-5s, rotavirus leads to hospital stays for nearly 1 in 10 (around 14,000) of those who get it in the UK.
The oral vaccine, which is expected to halve the number of vomiting and diarrhoea cases caused by rotavirus and lead to 70% fewer hospital stays, will be given to infants in 2 separate doses with other routine vaccines.
Rotavirus vaccines, including the Rotarix vaccine which will be used in the UK, are already used to routinely vaccinate children in many countries including the US.
Studies in the US have shown that rotavirus-related hospital admissions for young children have been cut by more than two thirds since rotavirus vaccination was introduced.
Professor David Salisbury, Director of Immunisation said:
‘Rotavirus spreads very easily and affects around 140,000 children every year, causing distress for them and their families.
‘Many people think of diarrhoea as something that all children get and that you have to put up with. But there is a way to protect children from this.
‘I’d encourage all parents of young children to accept this vaccine when the programme begins next year.’
This decision comes after the experts on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation concluded that the health benefit of vaccination is a cost effective way of protecting children against rotavirus.
The NHS Commissioning Board, which will be operational from April 2013, will become responsible for delivering the rotavirus vaccination programme. The programme will be monitored by Public Health England.